Closer look into allegations against several members of HISD board of trustees

By Syan Rhodes - Anchor/Reporter

HOUSTON - We're taking a closer look at the allegations against several members of the Houston Independent School District board of trustees outlined in a report from the Texas Education Association. 

The allegations

The investigation by the TEA's Special Investigations Unit claims wrongdoing on the part of some HISD board of trustees members in the following areas: 

1.) Violating the requirements of the Texas Open Meetings Act

2.) Exceeding the scope of their authority

3.) Violating contract procurement rules 

The response from the trustees

Diana Davila, board president, trustee, District 8:

"On August 5, 2019, the TEA issued a one-sided preliminary report to the district proposing that Houston ISD should have its democratically elected board completely removed and replaced with a non-elected board of managers.

"In attempting to justify their actions, they’ve released this one-sided preliminary report purporting to support their contentions – the truth, however, speaks differently and their report has proven to be nothing more than an attempt to fabricate a narrative to carry out their partisan agenda of weakening Texas public schools.

"Bottom line, the TEA is depriving the voting rights of millions of Houstonians, usurping the democratic process and our right to a locally elected school board. The TEA is drastically expanding state government interference in local issues, these actions are the embodiment of 'big government.' 

"As stated before, the report issued by TEA is a one-sided preliminary. The District will have the opportunity to respond to each allegation. Once this process is completed, the public will have access to both sides of the story, not just TEA’s. In the meantime, Houston ISD is working hard to ensure the start of the new school year is a great one for all our students, teachers and parents.
Proper documents & responses to all allegations will be submitted to TEA’s one-sided report to prove those incidents/allegations did not happen. It’s a shame some people will go to extremes to discredit the HISD School Board."

Jolanda Jones, trustee, District 4:

"I already knew my colleagues were pulling shenanigans. The preliminary report just confirmed for everybody else what I already knew was going on. Clearly, HISD business was being done outside of HISD without full knowledge of the board or the public and they were executing their plans at the board meetings. It is not my fault the board is getting taken over, it's their fault. I followed the rules but because of their bad behavior, we're gonna be taken over. There is no mechanism to individually remove the wrongdoers of us so it's either all of us or none of us. It's sad, but I think the alternative is worse." 

Rhonda Skillern-Jones, trustee, District 2:

Declined to comment on the advice of legal counsel because the board responses have not yet been submitted to TEA. 

Wanda Adams, trustee, District 9:

"Since the report is preliminary, we are preparing our responses. Legal advice is not to comment after until responses have been submitted."

Channel 2 tried to contact but did not hear back from Anne Sung, Holly Maria Flynn Vilaseca, Sergio Lira, Elizabeth Santos and Sue Deigaard. 

What's next?

The members of the HISD board of trustees have until Aug. 15 to submit their responses to the TEA's preliminary report. 

Based on what the  TEA calls a "demonstrated inability to appropriately govern, the agency is recommending to the commissioner of education that the accreditation status of the district be lowered, a conservator appointed and a board of managers be installed to replace the current board of trustees. 

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